Small Tortoiseshell (left) and Painted Lady (right)
Peacock (left) and Speckled Wood (right)
Thursday 21st May comments: Butterflies are far less diverse than moths, in total the Isle of May has recorded 16 different species of butterfly compared to 250 moth species. This is the same throughout the UK, moths are 30 time more diverse.
Butterflies are found across the island throughout the season, Small Tortoiseshells are usually the first to be recorded and peak later in the season when the second wave emerge. Peacock, Red Admiral and the Whites (small, large and green-veined) are recorded each year, along with the Painted lady.
Painted Lady numbers fluctuate year to year as they are long distance migrants, who knew that a butterfly can fly from the deserts of Africa across land and sea to reach the UK and the Isle of May in the summer? An amazing feet for any creature let alone a small fluttering butterfly. Last year was an amazing migration spectacle for the Painted Lady, when thousands were seen en-masse passing through. On one day 10,000 were recorded. A willing resident from the Isle of May bird observatory sat at the picnic site and counted as waves and waves of the dainty waifs came in off the sea, flew up the island and continued on their way. This continued for a further few days with many stopping off and feeding on the islands nettles, ragwort and thistles.
Other species that are not so commonly recorded are Wall, Comma, Ringlet and Meadow Brown. It was only in 2017 when t first Speckled Wood was recorded, this is a species that is beginning to spread northwards, as temperatures rise butterflies, like other insects, will expand their range.